Windows 7 Desktop Deployment Overview

Applies To: Windows 7

Building on the technologies introduced in the Windows Vista® operating system, Windows® 7 streamlines desktop deployment. Technologies within Windows 7 improve application compatibility, and new tools in Windows 7 help you reduce the evaluation and readiness cycle. Other improvements in Windows 7 include the following:

  • Providing more options for engineering and deploying images, which helps you service images throughout the operating-system lifecycle by using a single, consolidated toolset.

  • Optimizing deployment with improved driver handling through the Dynamic Driver Provisioning, which reduces image sizes by dynamically matching drivers to Plug-and-Play IDs or BIOS properties during deployment, and then pulls them from a central store.

  • Improving delivery with Windows Deployment Services, reducing bandwidth consumption, and improving speed and flexibility by using Multicast with Multiple Stream Transfer.

  • Improving the installation experience with faster and more consistent setup, powerful installation task-sequencing tools, and faster transfer of user files and settings.

For more Windows 7 resources, articles, demos, and guidance, see the Springboard Series for Windows 7

For a downloadable version of this document, see Windows 7 Desktop Deployment Overview in the Microsoft Download Center.

In this document

Improved Application and Hardware Readiness

Enhanced Imaging and File Delivery

Streamlined Installation and File Migration

Improved Application and Hardware Readiness

Windows 7 takes advantage of the investments in Windows Vista hardware and application compatibility that organizations made. In additional, Windows 7 and its tools improve the assessment and readiness cycle for IT professionals:

  • Inbox features   Windows 7 natively mitigates an extended and prioritized list of applications. It also provides more ways for users to apply compatibility modes by using troubleshooting features in order to help mitigate incompatible or unknown applications. In additional, Windows 7 uses the same driver model and hardware performance criteria as Windows Vista, so most hardware produced after Windows Vista was released is compatible with Windows 7.

  • Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT)   You can use ACT to create a comprehensive application and hardware inventory. You can also use ACT tools to test and mitigate compatibility issues.

    For more information, see Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) Version 5.5.

  • Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit   The MAP Toolkit is an agentless hardware and application inventory solution that provides detailed compatibility reporting.

    For more information, see Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit.

  • Windows Compatibility Center   The Windows Compatibility Center is a unified, online compatibility center that provides both application and device compatibility information.

    For more information, see Windows 7 Compatibility Center.

Enhanced Imaging and File Delivery

Windows 7 streamlines and extends the tools that you use to engineer and deploy operating system images. With Windows 7, you have more options for building images and can service images throughout the operating system life cycle. The following sections describe the features in Windows 7 and the related tools that improve the deployment experience.

  • Deployment Image Servicing and Management

  • Virtual Hard Disk Image Management and Deployment

  • Dynamic Driver Provisioning

  • Multicast Multiple Stream Transfer

Deployment Image Servicing and Management

The Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool is a unified tool for building and servicing Windows 7 images offline, including both WIM and virtual hard disk (VHD) image files. DISM is a scriptable command-line tool that combines and extends the functions of several Windows Vista offline image utilities, including ImageX, International Settings Configuration (IntlCfg.exe), PEImg, and Package Manager (PkgMgr.exe). DISM also improves error reporting and troubleshooting support.

With DISM, you can mount and unmount system images and update operating system components. You can add, enumerate, and remove non-Microsoft device drivers. You can add language packs and apply international settings. Most importantly, you can easily maintain an inventory of offline images that includes drivers, packages, features, and software updates.

DISM supports using Windows Vista scripts on Windows 7 images by translating Package Manager commands to DISM commands. DISM can also manage Windows Vista images.

For more information about DISM, see Deployment Image Servicing and Management Technical Reference.

Virtual Hard Disk Image Management and Deployment

Virtual hard disks (VHDs) traditionally require separate management and deployment solutions from the native file-based Windows images (WIM). You can use Windows 7 to manage Windows 7–based VHD images by using DISM and to deploy VHD files by using Windows Deployment Services. You benefit from reduced network bandwidth consumption when performing automated network deployments.

You can also deploy VHD files, such as WIM files, for automated deployment scenarios. These capabilities are especially valuable when using tools for server deployment in the data center.

Dynamic Driver Provisioning

With Dynamic Driver Provisioning in Windows 7, you can reduce the size of your images and the number of images you maintain. You do not need to update images when you introduce new hardware into your environment.

By centrally storing drivers on deployment servers, separate from images, you can install drivers dynamically or assign sets of drivers based on information contained in the BIOS. If you install drivers dynamically, Windows 7 enumerates Plug-and-Play devices during installation and then chooses drivers based on the Plug-and-Play IDs of the actual devices on the computer.

Reducing the number of drivers on individual computers reduces the number of potential driver conflicts. This ultimately streamlines installation and setup times and improves the reliability of the computer.

For more information, see Managing and Deploying Driver Packages.

Multicast Multiple Stream Transfer

You can use the Multiple Stream Transfer option in Windows 7 Multicast to deploy images across networks more efficiently. Instead of requiring each client to connect directly to a deployment server, Multicast enables deployment servers to broadcast images to multiple clients simultaneously.

In Windows 7, Multiple Stream Transfer enables servers to group clients that have similar bandwidth capabilities into network streams, ensuring the fastest possible transfer rate. In standard Multicast mode, introduced in Windows Server® 2008, the slowest computer sets the file transfer rate for other client computers. In standard Multicast mode without using Multiple Stream Transfer, you can now define minimum transfer performance thresholds to automatically remove slower computers from the multicast group.

For more information, see Performing Multicast Deployments.

Streamlined Installation and File Migration

Windows 7 improves the installation experience with a faster and more consistent setup, powerful installation task sequencing tools, and faster transfer of users’ files and settings. Windows 7 gives you more tools to reduce or eliminate the deployment impact to users.

The User State Migration Tool (USMT) has new features to improve performance for Windows 7. USMT is a command-line tool that you use to migrate users’ files and settings, such as application and operating system settings, from one Windows installation to another. For example, USMT adds the hard-link migration feature, which migrates files and settings without physically moving those files on the disk when refreshing the computer with a clean installation. This feature significantly improves migration performance.

Additional USMT improvements for Windows 7 include the following:

  • Reducing your need to write custom migration XML files by providing a dynamic algorithm to discover user documents during deployment

  • Enabling offline user-state migration, which increases flexibility and performance for gathering users’ files and settings

  • Migration of in-use files by using the Volume Shadow Copy service

For more information, see User State Migration Tool 4.0.


For Windows 7, Microsoft has made numerous improvements that streamline image deployment. These improvements include native compatibility mitigation for an extended range of applications, new and improved image-engineering tools that improve the deployment experience, and improvements that streamline migration of users’ files and settings.